What went wrong after Clausnitz

By Meera Jamal (Foto: Privat)

Meera Jamal. Foto: Privat

The weather was pleasant that evening, unlike the ambiance at my home in Pakistan, where emotions were running high. My mom, dad and sister and her children were all there to bid me farewell. My mom tried one last time to play the emotional card (where she would ask me to leave my profession and stop voicing my thoughts), half knowing that it won’t work. Her beautiful eyes were filled with tears and I knew no words potent enough to comfort her. I turned to my dad, who I knew would never ask me to give up. read on

Moreover, my father was much more knowledgeable, since he had spent over a decade in Germany working for the NATO forces and could never conceal his love for German literature and philosophy, which was evident from his collection of books that consumed most of the bookshelves. He had also met an old couple during his stay there who loved him as his son and kept correspondence with him on his return to Pakistan. He was painfully aware of seriousness of the matter, and that I could end up dead in the light of the threats that kept pouring in, criticising my work as a journalist.

My father had always been a hero to me. He taught me to be me — a proud, independent woman. He gave me the flight of thought that many women in Pakistan can never even dream of. Abu, as I used to call him, seemed composed but his voice betrayed his visage as he spoke. “This is the last time that were seeing each other, but I want you not to worry about it. I want you to get out of this crazy place and never to look back. Never come back, whatever happens.“ We hugged and cried for several minutes. I never thought his words would come true a few years later. I never got a chance to bid him a final farewell. He died over two years ago.

I remember arriving in Germany, feeling lost at the airport, despite having travelled many countries. My thoughtful travel agent, sensing the urgency and my lack of interest in details, had made sure that I had more than 24 hours of stay and more than 3 stopovers in at least three countries. I was so exhausted by the time I had landed in Frankfurt that even all the German spoken around was not working its horrors. A week after my arrival, I was asked by my lawyer to appear in an Asylheim in Gießen. My days there were spent following a jail-like routine, lightened by the cook who would flirt good-humouredly with me while giving out food. With hardly anything to read at hand, I would spend time drawing morbid images or learning German online. After spending weeks in the heim, finally I was called to appear before a judge. He asked me if I could speak German, and I felt quite proud saying “bisschen“ (although my lawyer told me later on that I was actually pronouncing it wrong). A month after the hearing, I got a stack of papers with a note from my lawyer saying that “I was lucky to have my case approved in a month’s time“.

The next morning and days after that, Germany never stopped to amaze me. In the seven years that I have spent in this country, I have made some valuable friends and was supported by organisations such as Journalisten Helfen Journalisten and Reporter Ohne Grenzen. Had it not been for JHJ, I would not have had money to pay for the lawyer and many other things in my life.

I am not going to lie that there haven’t been difficulties, or hardships, or that I haven’t encountered prejudice for being an ‘Ausländer‘ ever, but when going back is not an option, you have to deal with what is at hand. I am lucky enough to escape the unthinkable malice at the hands of few religious extremists for openly opposing them and their so-called beliefs. And I still write.

But, now I wonder what would I have felt if I was coming to Germany in one of the buses that came to Clausnitz. Would I have been able to breathe as easily as I do now? Would I be confident carrying my son around with me all over Germany? Would my parents and family have felt safe enough for me to travel to Germany? And I wonder what my father would have said to all of this!

What went wrong? What is adding fuel to this hatred? I can’t even imagine how hate can rob the innocence from faces of people who seemed so different even a few years ago. I mean it is quite contradictory to the images that one saw a few months earlier, where people were standing on the train stations with placards that had „welcome“ written on them. In an interview the interpreter Wolfram Fischer, who was in a bus with the refugees who arrived in Clausnitz, described the incident with tear-filled eyes. His description of the hatred that he felt from the mob was painful, yet matched exactly what was seen in the videos. Images of children and women crying and the crowd chanting slogans in German only makes it all the more traumatic to watch. Will the police in future be more prejudiced against refugees no matter what the circumstances might be?

I cannot help but think that many of the refugees who are pouring into Germany may have gone through trauma back home too. How many loved ones had the war already swallowed? And to expose them to hatred like this is just beyond my comprehension. Moreover, I can’t get the image of that child out of my mind, crying inconsolably while looking fearfully at the chanting mob.

I am quite confused, as for all the years that I have been in Germany, I have heard people tell me about East and West Germany, and their tales of moving through one part of the Germany just to get access to a more breathable environment. The trauma of war is not that foreign to the German people, and they have pretty much fought more than half a century battling with it. The blackouts, and Germany through the wars and Nazi era is still pretty much shown in the documentaries on all the German TVs. It is heartening to see many TV channels and newspaper are taking up the issue and not deciding to look away from the reality.

What is astonishing is how the situation accelerated this far? Not agreeing with politicians and government policy is one thing, and to throw hostility at the faces of people who turn up from some war-torn country, because the German government has allowed them too, is quite another. No one seems to be certain as in what is yet to come. Will the situation be ever normalised or it is going to get from bad to worse? Could this mean the world would see more of such incidents erupting from Germany? What image would the world get of Germany from all of this madness!

What remains to be seen is how the government deals with the situation and if this hatred is either kept in check or let loose as a monster capable to spread and destroy the whole fabric of German society. I am still getting emails from Germans who tell me how traumatised they are after the Clausnitz incident. I am still hopeful, no matter how bad it might seem.